February 8th, 2011

Michael Young to Tigers? Not happening

Michael Young has asked the Rangers for a trade after shifting positions three times in recent years. The Tigers don’t have a clear-cut starter at second base, one of Young’s old positions, nor do they have a clear No. 2 hitter in the lineup. Sounds like a match, right?

Not happening, for a few very big reasons. Word from the Tigers is that they’re not in on that. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLB.com Tuesday morning that their infield is set, the same as it was a couple weeks ago. They’re not pursuing any deals.

Though Dombrowski didn’t go into detail — can’t talk about players from other teams for fear of tampering — several reasons show why it wouldn’t happen. First, Young has veto rights on trades to all but eight teams, and the Tigers aren’t one of those teams, according to MLB.com TR Sullivan. The Rangers are dealing with just teams on that list, Texas GM Jon Daniels told reporters Monday. Young reportedly would consider teams outside that list on a case by case basis, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason for the list.

Second, and just as important, is Young’s contract — $16 million a year for the next three seasons. For any player, that’s a huge obligation, even if the Rangers end up willing to pay part of that. It’s not just about the money, but the years.

For a 34-year-old infielder, it’s especially about the years. The Tigers let Polanco walk as a free agent at the same age two years ago, even declining the chance at arbitration. Granted, the Tigers were looking to trim payroll at that point, but there also wasn’t much of a market for Polanco as a second baseman. He’s now the Phillies third baseman. Young, meanwhile, hasn’t played the middle infield since 2008, when he was still Texas’ starting shortstop.

If the Tigers had the flexibility and the desire to add a veteran second baseman, they likely would’ve done it already. For those contract terms, it would’ve arguably made more sense for them to pursue Dan Uggla — a younger second baseman and a right-handed power hitter — when he was available in the fall.

Some readers have suggested the Tigers could send Carlos Guillen to Texas in the deal to free up salary space, at least for this year (a $13 million year for Guillen in the last season of his contract). But with Guillen coming off microfracture surgery in his knee, not expected to be game ready until mid-March and with a long injury history, his value to other teams just isn’t there. Plus, he has full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the Majors, the last five with the same team), and the idea of a part-time DH probably appeals even less to him than it does to Young, especially in a contract year for Guillen.

When it comes down to it, The Tigers are serious about trying to leave room for developing young talent, and second base is one area where they have it between Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes and Danny Worth, plus Brandon Douglas on the horizon. Doesn’t mean all these guys are going to pan out, or that any of them will approach Young’s production, but they have enough depth to expect somebody to separate themselves from the group. And with Carlos Guillen added in, they have enough candidates to believe they can get some production out of that spot this year. And any deal for Young anywhere would be a deal made for this year; he’ll be 36 for the last year of his contract in 2013.